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How to choose an insulated jacket

13th Jan 2017 in Advice, Cotswold Outdoor, General

Get clued-up on different types of insulation.
By Cotswold Outdoor

Save 15%* on an insulated jacket this winter from Cotswold Outdoor with your DofE Reward Card

As mammals we’re great at keeping ourselves warm, our bodies work hard to maintain our core temperature at 37°C degrees whatever the weather. Nevertheless, on cold, crisp winter days sometimes we need a little help staying toasty so we can enjoy the outdoors.

Insulation is a vital part of the clothing layering system and insulated jackets, sometimes known as puffer jackets or down jackets, trap warmth and support your body in keeping you comfortable in the cold. Insulated products can be worn as mid-layers or as outer layers in dry, cold conditions.

Our handy insulated jacket guide will help you decide which type of insulation is right for you, depending on the conditions and activity you’ll be tackling.



Down jackets are filled with plumage clusters found close to the skin of geese and ducks. Of all insulation types, down has the highest warmth to weight ratio.


The ‘loft’ of a down jacket is measured by fill power, this is usually rated between 300 and 900. The higher the fill power rating, the more loft the down has, therefore less down is required to provide warmth. Products with high fill power are usually more expensive than products with lower fill power but have a higher warmth to weight ratio.

TIP: If you’re looking for a jacket with maximum warmth that takes up less space in your pack, choose down insulation.

Water Repellent Down

One drawback of down is that it stops retaining your body heat when it gets wet as it clumps together, reducing its ability to trap warmth. If you’ll be using your jacket in potentially wet conditions you could try a product with a Durable Water Repellent coated outer, this will protect it from a light shower. However, the best solution is to choose a down product which has a water repellent (hydrophobic) treatment applied to help to prevent it clumping in wet conditions.

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic filled insulation jackets use man-made fibres which trap warm air by imitating down. As the fibres are polyester they are water resistant and insulate well in both wet and dry conditions. Synthetic jackets can be more affordable, easier to maintain and more durable than down jackets.

TIP: Synthetic materials weigh more and compress less than down insulation, however, they perform much better in wet conditions.

Synthetic & Down Mixes

These jackets are less common and utilise the strengths of both down and synthetic materials. Most jackets made this way have synthetic fill in the shoulders and arms with down in the core body section. This means your body stays extremely warm where you need it most, while the areas which are likely to get wet first remain dry.

What are baffles?


Baffle sizes on insulated jackets

Baffles are the sections in jackets which contain the insulation and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The more baffles a jacket has the more stitching will be included, meaning the jacket will lose warmth. However, jackets with more baffles work better under a waterproof than those with only a few.

Do I need a hood?


hooded jackets

Whether or not you need a hood depends what you’ll be using your insulated jacket for. As you’re probably after a jacket which is easy to pack, lightweight and fits in your rucksack, a hood is likely to add unwanted weight and bulk. However, if you’ll be using your jacket in a particularly cold environment where you’ll be standing around for long periods of time a hood will help keep you even warmer, so is worth considering.

Want to know how to look after your toasty warm insulated jacket? Have a read of our insulated jacket care guide.

Shop insulated jackets at Cotswold Outdoor this winter and save 15%* using your DofE Reward Card

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